Eminem – Encore Review

Eminem – Encore
Aftermath, 2004

1. Curtains Up
2. Evil Deeds
3. Never Enough (Ft. 50 Cent & Nate Dogg)
4. Yellow Brick Road
5. Like Toy Soldiers
6. Mosh
7. Puke
8. My 1st Single
9. Paul (skit)
10. Rain Man
11. Big Weenie
12. Em Calls Paul (skit)
13. Just Lose It
14. Ass Like That
15. Spend Some Time (Ft. Obie Trice, Stat Quo, and 50 Cent)
16. Mockingbird
17. Crazy In Love
18. One Shot 2 Shot (Ft. D-12)
19. Final Thought (skit)
20. Encore / Curtains Down (Ft. Dr. Dre & 50 Cent)

There really is no short explanation for who Eminem is, what he has accomplished, the ire he has provoked, or the legacy he has left already in such a short period of time. Love him or hate him, he’s still quite respected by those who know their hip-hop and appreciate high-quality flow and freestyle. Establishing himself with The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, while further showcasing his abilities with The Eminem Show and the soundtrack to his first film, 8 Mile, as well as work with D12, the biggest question is: what’s left for Eminem to do that he hasn’t already done well?

Encore doesn’t necessarily answer that question; if nothing else, it still hangs in balance. We know who Slim Shady is and we know who Marshall Mathers is. We know about Kim, Hallie, his mother, and his problems with other artists. Is that all we are entitled to, as listeners? These four subjects rehashed?

It’s hard to tell. Opening with “Evil Deeds” and “Never Enough,” there seems to be a distinct lack of interesting subject matter. Hooray, I’m Eminem and I’m famous. Fantastic, we get that. Still, the contrast of Nate Dogg on the latter track flows nicely, and 50 Cent manages to not sound like he’s rapping through a coma.

The next three tracks stand out as most certainly different from the remainder of Encore. “Yellow Brick Road” is more of a history lesson through Eminem’s life, coming up as a white rapper and the discrimination he faced as such; alternately, he goes into the story behind the tapes that launched such controversy last year over his use of the infamous “n” word — and he straight up apologizes for “singling out an entire race.” Many may call this too little, too late, but considering nobody had him cornered on the issue at the moment and it has long since blown over, it seems rather interesting that he would bring it up again on his own. “Like Toy Soldiers” easily catches one off-guard with a sample from the long-forgotten Martika hit, “Toy Soldiers.” The song is the emotional-side recap of Eminem’s innumerable rap-battles of the last year or two and explains the fuel behind it, and once again, Marshall is found apologizing for his actions. And “Mosh,” the second single released on the album, is a straight-ahead diss on President George W. Bush; the beat is plodding, but it’s interesting that Eminem would choose to be impassioned about politics in the first place instead of just ripping on his family members.

But that’s okay, because after those three songs finish up, it’s all straight-up rehashed Eminem from thereon out. “Puke” is a very tasty little ditty devoted to Kim and whatever other chicks are disgusting him this week; welcome back, Slim Shady. “My First Single” is, well, I’m not exactly sure what it is; progressing onward to “Rain Man,” “Big Weenie,” and “Just Lose It,” there seems to be nothing more to these songs than completely nonsensical babbling to fill space. The beats aren’t special whatsoever. The flow is nice on the ears as Eminem tends to be, but unless sophomoric dick-and-fart humor hasn’t stopped being funny, these tracks amount to little more than a waste and below-par comedy, even for Eminem. “Ass Like That” isn’t an improvement on these, and takes shots at Triumph the Insult Comic Dog no less, but at least it’s slightly more amusing to hear who Eminem thinks is, umm, attractive.

Things change up slightly with “Spend Some Time” and all of its guest stars; the track isn’t anything spectacular in the least, but it hints back to the more serious side of Eminem that was sprinkled much more liberally over his last couple of albums. “Mockingbird” seems to be a continuing of the trend Eminem has of singing to his daughter; much more serious than The Eminem Show’s “Hallie’s Song”, he recounts the reasons why he and her mother won’t be together and how things will be okay anyway. It quite easily takes the prize as being the most powerful song on the album.

Back to the bizarre samples, “Crazy In Love” samples Heart’s “Crazy On You” almost nonsensically, but somehow he makes it work regardless. Aside from that, once again, Eminem has produced another forgettable track, saying nothing and going nowhere. Of course, that’s nothing compared to “One Shot Two Shot,” a fictional account of a club shooting featuring his D12 buddies — it’s clearly a D12 caliber track, meaning that it doesn’t have a whole lot of place here on Encore and only adds to the filler mentality of the disc. Closing with “Encore/Curtains Down,” Dr. Dre lends some lovely flow, but the boring minimalist beat and generic subject matter only serve as a mediocre end to a mediocre effort.

There may be an easy argument with this album: folks have commented that this is the “return of Slim Shady,” although as I recall, Slim was a lot more venomous than the spotty shots taken on the more lighthearted tracks. Eminem was also widely known for his wacky sense of humor, and that too is abound, although regressed to such a childish state that it’s almost a wonder what he would do without a whoopee cushion sound effect. As for the angry Eminem? He’s apparently only angry at Bush and Kim these days, remaining more contemplative and seemingly feeling the need to do little more than explain his past actions or mistakes. While Eminem was a brilliant storyteller in years past, his days of “Stan”-like creativity are nowhere to be found on Encore. It’s too bad, really, as this may end up being the release that knocks Eminem off of his hip-hop throne and may get him whacked with a Vanilla Ice bat.